(truthfinder.com/find/larrycarter file photo) Former San Francisco Giants pitcher Larry Carter is the subject of Tony the Tiger’s column He was a Giant?
Twenty- Eight Years Ago Larry Carter Almost Became the Answer to a Horrible Giants Trivia Question.
By Tony “The Tiger” Hayes
Larry Carter – RHP – 1992 – #52
He Was A Giant?
There’s a good chance that even the most attentive Giants fan would shrug and mutter “never heard of him” at the mention of Larry Carter.
But if baseball’s back room dealings had turned out differently in the fall of 1992, Giants fans would probably have a much different reaction to Carter – a West Virginian right-hander with nice curve and decent split-fingered fastball
Had the National League not reversed course and put the kibosh on the sale and relocation of the Giants to Florida’s Gulf Coast, the name “Larry Carter” would have become the answer to a most horrible trivia question.
“ Who started the final home game in the history of the San Francisco Giants.”
After decades of featuring some of most dazzling and colorful pitchers in the business (Juan Marichal, Gaylord Perry, John Montefusco, to name a few) it appeared the Giants would play their last game in The City with the anonymous, 28-year-old Larry Carter on the mound.
That’s right, Larry Freakin’ Carter.
Why Was He A Giant?
The Giants already had one foot squarely in Tampa Bay when Carter made his big league debut with SF in September of 1992.
Seven years into his professional career, Carter finally got a call to the bigs leagues three weeks after discontented Giants owner Bob Lurie announced the sale of the club.
After more than a decade and four failed ballot measures to construct a new downtown ball park, the frustrated Lurie had had enough. He wanted out.
So on 8/7/92 Lurie announced he had reached an agreement in principle to sell the Giants to a group of investors from Tampa for $115 million.
Once the sale was ratified, the club would wave “Bye Bye Baby”to the Golden Bay Area and say hello to the Humid Bay Area.
The news caused a dour and depressing air to hang over the Giants team and its local fan base.
It was in that environment that the wide-eyed Carter walked into a big league club house for the first time in September of 1992.
“I feel I’m a guy with a big heart,” said Carter. “If you believe you can do it, you can do it. You set your mind to it.”
Before & After
Originally a 10th round draft pick of the Cardinals in 1986, Carter was inked by the Giants as a minor league free agent in 1988 after missing all of 1987 with an elbow injury.
Though never viewed as a big time prospect, Carter proved his worth as a reliable organizational arm -capable of getting outs as both a starter and reliever.
After going 9-8, 2.95 at Double-AA Shreveport in 1991, Carter followed up with a solid campaign at Triple-AAA Phoenix in 1992, posting a 11-6, 4.37 ledger.
Upon joining SF, presumptive lame duck manager Roger Craig figured he had little to lose by inserting the eager Carter into the Giants starting rotation.
Carter would register a decision in each of his six Giants starts, going 1-5, 4.64.
Going forward as we now know – the National League never wanted to vacate the lucrative SF market. So they held off voting on the move to Florida long enough to find a local SF based ownership group.
In the end the Tampa group got huffy, about being jacked around – but SF nevertheless kept the Giants.
Carter however was not part of the Giants effort going forward.
After 1992, he remained in the minors the rest of his playing career.
He Never Got His Own Bobblehead. But…
Before the Giants were rescued from the evil intentions of Tampa, it looked likely that after decades of intense, personal battles, the Giants long-standing territorial rivalry with the Dodgers was coming to an sad end in 1992.
Starting in 1993, the Giants and Dodgers would be geographically separated for the first time ever.
Whether it was a coincidence of the Giants forthcoming move or not, both teams performed as if in a drugged malaise the final stages of the ‘92 campaign.
With the threat of relocation looming, the Giants sputtered to a 5th place finish, with a final record of 72-90.
The Dodgers meanwhile weren’t going anywhere – literally… and figuratively.
Sure, Chavez Ravine was still a destination spot for Angelinos – but in the standings, the Dodgers were stuck in the La Brea Tar Pits.
Tommy Lasorda’s 1992 charges finished with the Dodgers worst record since moving to California – 63-99 – finishing in the cellar of the National League West for the first time.
But when Carter took the ball at Dodger Stadium on 9/11/92, it was still SF vs. LA and that still meant something.
Carter faced a lineup that included Eric Karros, Lenny Harris and Mitch Webster and he earned the only victory of his big league career, allowing just a single run in seven frames in a 7-3 Giants win.
“I think his adrenaline was flowing pitching here against the Dodgers,” manager Craig said. “He was aggressive and kept coming after hitters.”
On Sunday 9/27/92 more than 45,000 fans would cram into Candlestick Park for Fan Appreciation Day. It was the final home game of the ‘92 regular season vs. Cincinnati. And it was also looking more and more as if the Giants were playing for the final time in SF.
Despite the near-sellout, the atmosphere felt like a solemn funeral.
Fans circulated throughput the Stick as if in a daze, some carrying signs begging the team to stay; the rest just carrying heavy hearts.
Among the crest-fallen fans in attendance was the greatest Giant of them all – Willie Mays.
“You’re looking at a lot of tradition here. You’re talking about Giants tradition,” Mays said. “Now if you go to Tampa, you’ve got to change all that. I hope they stay here. I mean, I live here!”
So it was that Larry Carter took the mound vs. the visiting Reds that afternoon- an 85 -degree Indian Summer special.
Cincinnati jumped on Carter for a couple of runs early, but then the rookie settled down, and pitching well into the sixth inning. Still he took the loss in the 3-2 Reds win.
It was a few more anxious weeks before the dust settled and Giants fans learned the team was here to stay.
The Giants would return in 1993 to much fan fare, with free agent signee Barry Bonds at the center of a 103-win club.
But Carter wasn’t a part of it.
As it turned out that late September contest vs. the Reds wasn’t San Francisco’s final big league home game after all – but it was was for Carter.